Part of company problem-solving starts with an honest and objective appraisal. The company needs to evaluate if they have
- the human resources and political environment to properly analyze problems,
- develop a corrective plan,
- create buy-in of all stakeholders, and
- the leadership to make needed changes while the company continues with its daily business.
In fact, making a decision to hire consulting assistance is much more than just a cost-benefit proposition.
Most companies become focused on making changes when results (particularly sales or profits) turn down or don’t meet expectations. Many companies think they know what the problems or deficiencies are; however if that were the fact, why the problems?
When making changes to a company’s process or procedures (or innovative ways to meet the ever-changing marketplace) it’s a wise proposition that before jumping to conclusions that the perceived problem be thoroughly investigated; regardless of how “obvious” the symptoms are. If not, management may have the misfortune of either misdiagnosis and creating more problems.
For example, if management decides on a course of action based on what is perceived without analyzing the problem correctly, an incorrect company initiative that does not fix the problem can cause employees to lose confidence in management’s ability to make needed corrections. As a result, the next time management tries to muster the troops for another problem-solving attempt; the usual cynical employee reaction is: “here we go again!” Indeed, without employee buy-in, change is hard to achieve.
Doing It Right
A company is a complex group of interactions that if not carefully managed and synchronized can result in sub-optimum results. And, as with health issues, the visible symptoms may not be the root cause. In fact, a good physician will never try to shoot from the hip just from observing symptoms. They will perform due diligence to confirm their suspicions before taking any actions. This analogy holds true for businesses. Just slumping sales or profits normally do not point to a clear reason for the symptoms. Sales are off, but what are the potential causes. Profits may be trending down, but what are the potential causes? Moreover, what are causing the causes?
The Prism of Politics
As longtime consultants, we often are called in when management realizes that potential political problems could be an end result of doing in-depth and thorough company analysis. Turf protection and personalities are always considerations when making constructive changes. In addition, management can always blame the consultants if things don’t go as expected. Having an expert, experienced consultant or team of consultants exist to accomplish an objective, third-party analysis and assistance making needed changes.
What Characteristics does a top performing consultant possess?
It goes without saying that top consultants possess not only the training and experience needed to analyze a range of problems, develop a scope of work and implement solutions but they must also have the “street smarts” of how to come into a company as an outsider and quickly develop trust and cooperation. As we all know, this quality is not easy to find. There are plenty of people with a great academic and work resume but just don’t have those personal skills and leadership to act as an effective and harmonious catalyst for change.
At the same time, a top consultant will not be afraid to directly address the problems with no political filters, work closely with not only the top echelon but also with all levels of the organization. Indeed, many employees are excited with the idea of providing input about problems without the fear of potential repercussions. Oftentimes, management does not have enough appreciation for the wisdom and experiences of their non-management group. Trust and confidentiality are key to not only identifying root causes but also enlisting the organizational cooperation needed for making effective changes.
The Most Common Consulting Project
MetaExperts is an organization made up of rigorously vetted experts with a range of general and specific areas of expertise. However, the most common problem and the solution we see deals with the basic process and best practice improvement. Typically, after a thorough analysis, most companies find solutions by applying Lean Six Sigma training and best practices.
Key Principles of Lean Six Sigma
- Focus on the customer.
- Identify and understand how the work gets done (the value stream).
- Manage, improve and smooth the process flow.
- Remove Non-Value-Added steps and waste.
- Manage by fact and reduce variation.
- Involve and equip the people in the process.
- Undertake improvement activity in a systematic way.
While this list may seem logical in its objectives, the actual process of change involves complex mapping, measuring and creating benchmark metrics. Typically, MetaExperts uses only black belt Six Sigma qualified consultants (the highest ranking).
One of the great advantages of using outside consultants is the opportunity to become exposed to new ideas and methodologies that other companies have used to improve and innovate. Reinventing the wheel is either a form of arrogance or ignorance.